7,000 years ago, a Celestial, Arishem (voiced by David Kaye), sent immortals to protect humans from apex predators called Deviants but not to interfere in their conflicts. He speaks to them through a gold sphere embedded in Ajak (Salma Hayek), the leader who tells them all to go off and pursue their own purpose 500 years after the last Deviant was slain. But when one of the creatures appears in London, it now not only appears able to heal itself, it doesn’t attack humans, instead targeting “Eternals.”
Laura's Review: B
There’s been a lot of speculation about how Oscar winning cowriter (with Patrick Burleigh, Ryan Firpo and Kaz Firpo)/director Chloe Zhao’s (“Nomadland”) naturalistic docudrama style would translate in the MCU and the answer is, unsurprisingly, a bit of a hybrid. While Eternals are introduced as two new layers of omnipotence over the Avengers and consist of a group with internal spats, ribbing, rivalries and allegiances, their relationships are more inclined to cross over into love. The landscape here is far more in tune with nature than urban sprawl as the biggest cities we see outside of present day London are ancient wonders like Babylon circa 500 BC, most scenes taking place in deserts, forests and by the sea. Zhao’s imprint can even be felt in special effects featuring celestial shapes, natural stone and double decker buses turned into a shower of rose petals. Even Ramin Djawadi’s score seems softer and gentler.
Aside from the group’s beloved Ajak, who now rides horses in South Dakota, the Eternals consist of Ikaris (Richard Madden), the strongest Eternal who crushed his lover Sersi (Gemma Chan), who can change matter, by leaving without a trace; Sprite (Lia McHugh), the punky teen who lives with Sersi and loves Ikaris; Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) who reinvented himself as a Bollywood star; Sullen Druig (Barry Keoghan), the Eternal who dares to interfere in human fighting via mind control; Makkari (Lauren Ridloff, AMC’s ‘The Walking Dead’), the deaf Eternal of incredible speed; Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), the inventor who jumps the gun steering human technology before retreating with a husband and son; Thena (Angelina Jolie) the warrior suffering from Mahd Wy’ry, the condition brought on by an overload of memories and Gilgamesh (Don Lee), the Eternal who vows to protect her when Ajak recommends an awful cure.
The film kicks off to Pink Floyd’s ‘Time’ in present day London where Sersi works at the Natural History Museum with her lover, Dane Whitman (Kit Harington). A global earthquake hits as Sersi teaches a class of young kids. That evening, as she, Dane and Sprite walk home after celebrating Dane’s birthday, a Deviant emerges from the Thames. Ikaris returns, drawing out more Deviants (and setting up a dual romantic triangle). As this splinter group recognizes it is time to reunite with the others, we are witness to a foreboding scene as Arishem tells Ajak not to get too attached to the planet Earth.
Zhao then flashes back to various time periods to do some world building, jumping about various civilizations to illustrate how Eternals lived alongside men like a kind of MCU Peace Corps. When they’re not assisting with irrigation and other human endeavors, they are fighting Deviants, giant winged beasts that look something like dragons made out of rubber coated wire, the least Zhaoian of the film’s effects. The Eternals themselves wear form fitting colored suits adorned with golden celestial symbols and have the ability to conjure golden weapons or shoot gold beams from their eyes. If there is a note of been here, done that, it lies with Ikaris, whose blue suit and powerful beam shooting while suspended in air is strongly reminiscent of “Watchmen’s” Doctor Manhattan.
Following the MCU playbook, it is now time to return to the present, as those London based Eternals find their colleagues in their various earthly pursuits. Kingo leaves an elaborate Bollywood dance number with his human valet Karun (Harish Patel), whom he’s enlisted to make a documentary of their exploits. Perhaps most amusingly, Gilgamesh is found wearing a ‘kiss the cook’ apron out in the middle of nowhere, preparing feasts for the increasingly erratic Thena. But they will find they haven’t reunited for the reason they thought, as one betrayal follows another, not all betrayals what they first appear. Surprisingly, it appears that Thanos’s attempt to wipe out half of living things put a chink in a more malevolent mission.
The ensemble’s diversity, from race to disabilities to sexual orientation, has been commented upon laboriously, but it is also made up of lesser known actors, Jolie and Hayek its most prominent names. It’s a good mix, Jolie providing melancholy, Nanjiani comic relief, Keoghan attitude, Madden and Chan sex appeal and romance. And while all of these films feature life or death climaxes on a massive scale, Zhao’s, at least, doesn’t require the destruction of a city, instead evoking “Planet of the Apes” writ large. Note that there are two post credit sequences, as usual pointing the way towards future installments and unveiling a new character.
Robin's Review: B
The Celestials came to earth a million years ago, genetically experimenting to create, over many millennia, two races. One creation, the Deviants, are grotesque, unstable and evil creatures. The other, human-looking and long-lived, have protected but remained hidden from their human cousins as the “Eternals.”
Ah, the Marvel Universe. It is a world/galaxy/universe of its own and fans are its unique inhabitants. I am not an inhabitant. That said, MU films have a checklist that every one of them seems to follow. You get a bevy of colorful super heroes wielding their individual powers. As required, they banter and cajole each other no matter how dire the circumstances and dangers. There is an indomitable foe that they have to dominate. And, most important, there is an extended big bang finale that is supposed to wrap things up – but you know they do not – and it goes on too long.
Now, to the story. It goes about the way described in the opening paragraph. The Deviants are pug ugly monsters out to, as far as I can tell, make a snack out of mankind. The Eternals’ mission is to stop and destroy all the Deviants but, the Celestials have a hidden agenda that will put that mission in great jeopardy. It is up to the Eternals to unite and thwart the agenda.
As expected, the money is up there on the screen with its large, talented cast – including, as I like to see, a huge battery of stunt people – and copious CGI effects from start to finish. It is entertaining and mostly fast-paced – until the interminable bombastic finale that goes on for many minutes longer than it should – and will please the MCU fans.
One last note, I am never staying through the credits of a Marvel movie ever again. The credits go on far too long and I could care less about the much touted bumper of things to come. Again, it is for the fans so I hope they have fun.
Walt Disney's Marvel Studios opens "Eternals" in theaters on 11/4/2021.